As the British & Irish Lions and even Japan kick into gear, Hong Kong are whipping out the zinc cream and hitting the beach
Good form in the Asia Rugby Championship is cause for excitement for fans, but Saturday’s game against South Korea is it for Leigh Jones’ side until after summer
While Hong Kong are doing a number on South Korea at Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday afternoon, the British & Irish Lions will be opening their tour of New Zealand against the Provincial Barbarians.
If you’re not in the loop, the rugby world is going bonkers at the prospect of the Lions taking on the world’s best in the All Blacks.
It’s one of those rare sporting events that captivates entire nations and leaves hardened rugby men at risk of relieving themselves involuntarily due to excitement.
While it’s hard to see the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) clash between Hong Kong and South Korea having the same effect, there is cause to be keen here as well.
Leigh Jones’ troops put on a top show in the outpost of Yesan on the weekend and one would expect them to have their way with the Koreans again. The alternative doesn’t bare thinking about after all the talk of progress.
So good were Hong Kong away from home that they’ve jumped two places in the world rankings to 25th.
Before Yesan, there were two pretty good showings against Japan, with the first one very nearly netting a victory.
Losses against a second- to third-string Japan side yes, but plenty better than what’s been dished up against similarly “weak” Japan sides in years gone by.
So when Hong Kong dismantle South Korea this weekend on their home deck for all here to see, optimism will no doubt be high that the World Cup berth they so covet could actually one day become a reality.
And then nothing.
While Asian rivals Japan take on Romania before welcoming Ireland, the world’s fourth-ranked team, in June, Hong Kong will be whipping out the zinc cream and toddling off to the beach.
Their next engagement will be a tour to Kenya in late August, while after that it is the Asia Rugby Sevens Series.
Of course the players need a break and it is sort of the end of the season – if there is such a thing in modern rugby – but heck it’d be nice to see the side carry on their current momentum into another game or two.
Hong Kong power through ‘tipping point’ to land one of the best wins of the Leigh Jones era against South Korea
We all know it’s not easy finding opponents and I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but surely there’s others out there looking for a run.
The World Rugby Nations Cup starts on June 10 and features Spain (ranked 18th), Namibia (19), Russia (20) and Uruguay (21), as well as an Italy A side and an Argentina 15.
Maybe Hong Kong aren’t quite at a level to get a run in a tournament like that, but there are options.
World Cup qualifying will ensure there is no shortage of games next year, with Hong Kong – if they’re good enough – set to play in the ARC, a home and away Asia/Oceania play-off and hopefully a four-team repechage from which the winner will make the big dance.
The following year, however, it would be nice to see Jones’ side having something more to crack into after the ARC, on the basis they’ll still be on an upward curve and leaving the fans wanting more.
In the meantime, all aboard the train bound for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland in August.
Hong Kong’s women put in a much-improved showing against Spain in a warm-up match on Tuesday night, going down 19-8 ahead of Saturday’s test match.
While improvement and progress are ever the buzzwords in Hong Kong rugby, it’s hard to knock this effort when you consider Hong Kong got cleaned up 59-12 and 57-0 when they were in Spain 18 months ago.